ATLANTA -- It looks like Georgia Tech’s days of flying under the radar are over.
The Yellow Jackets jumped into the national rankings this week at No. 22 in the AP poll and No. 23 in the Amway coaches poll. It’s the first time that Georgia Tech has appeared in the national rankings since Nov. 20, 2011, more than two full seasons ago.
“I guess it’s good to be in the polls,” head coach Paul Johnson said.
Now the test will be to see how long the Yellow Jackets can remain there. In 2011, when they won their first six games, they got as high as No. 11 in the polls before losing four of their final six regular-season games.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, who will be on the opposing sideline this week at Bobby Dodd Stadium, believes the rankings are not a fluke.
“There’s a reason they’re undefeated,” Cutcliffe said. “It’s because they’re good. They’re really good.”
Cutcliffe, who has a vote in the poll, put the Yellow Jackets on his ballot but didn’t say where.
A lot has gone right for Georgia Tech so far this season. The Yellow Jackets have moved the ball effectively, averaging 429.8 yards in offense per game. And on defense they’ve intercepted eight passes and recovered a fumble. And Georgia Tech’s special teams have ranged from above average to good.
Perhaps more than anything else, Georgia Tech has developed an ability to bounce back from adversity.
“I’d say they’re resilient,” Johnson said of his players. “Nothing much seems to affect them. We get behind, and nothing changes. They don’t panic. They just kind of keep playing and that’s a good trait to have.”
Georgia Tech has trailed at some point in every game this season. The Yellow Jackets trailed Wofford 9-7, Tulane 14-7, Georgia Southern 39-35, Virginia Tech 24-17 and Miami 14-7. But each time they wound up winning.
“We’d like to get to a point where we don’t get behind,” Johnson said. “I think the chemistry is good, and I think they like each other. I think they like what we do and they enjoy doing it. They’re having fun with it. When you do that, you can get better at it, and I think they’ve gotten better each week.”
One area that has seen improvement is the offensive line, which began the season with two brand new starters, including the center. Despite the changeover, the Yellow Jackets have averaged 6.03 yards per rush, 25th best in the nation. A constant has been All-ACC guard Shaq Mason, who this week was named the conference’s co-offensive lineman of the week.
“The big thing is to try to not look ahead and take them one game at a time,” Mason said. “Right now we’re focused on Duke and only Duke. The main thing is staying grounded.”
Johnson said the early success is validation of the hard work the team has put in, starting from last spring.
“I think they’ve worked hard all year,” he said. “I’ve had to get on these guys very seldom in practice. They usually come to work. They do what they need to do in practice. The neat thing is that they realize they can get better. They can watch the tape and see that ‘I can be way better at this’ or ‘I’ve got to get better at this.’ When you’ve got guys like that, they’re fun to coach and they’re fun to help.”